The first thing I noticed when I woke up on the bus was that my head was no longer reclined on the bus seat. Instead, my vision was slanted, and the thing on which my head perched was warm; then it cleared its throat. I glanced up at the elderly man in the seat beside me and righted myself. Unfortunately, the drool I had produced during my impromptu nap was not so quick to separate itself from his jacket, leaving a stringy line of spit lingering in the air between us.
"I am so, so sorry," I began, wiping off what I could with my sweater.
The man looked at me, then looked away, muttering something I chose not to recount under his breath.
In my childhood, I would have imagined he was someone who would have owned the unkempt house down the road. The man who threw newspapers at children riding on bikes for fun. Or someone who owned puppies just to turn them into a fur coat.
At least, when I told my mother about this later, that would be the story I would spin. My entire life was about stories. Finding the ones that were interesting, the ones worth being told. Who was I to say that he didn't enjoy target practice on children? If I had a picture, I could prove that it happened. It was my job after all.
I laughed at that, picturing how my boss would react. I could see the headlines now: Elderly Man Terrorizes Youth. Community Seeks Justice.
At that, I received a "go to you know where" look from the man beside me. Fun fact: laughing at your own jokes is, apparently, not socially appropriate.
Before I could address him, the bus rolled to a halt in front of my stop. I got off, satisfied with the thought that our neighborhood children were safe from the terrors of flying newspapers and crusty old men, at least for now.
Abbeville county was colder than I remembered it being. The temperature dropped drastically from October to November, and my attire was far from up to par. Thankfully, my assignment in Africa had been in a place where I didn't really have to worry about the cold. It was just hot, which suited me just fine.
I adjusted my camera bag and kept moving.
The prospect of coffee existed in my mind as more than a temptation. No, for me, it became a beacon, drawing me in as though our fates were drawn up together. After a month in the field with little more than instant Folgers, I decided my first purchase back in town would and should be a decent cup of coffee, not that sugar-filled, cream topped garbage. No. I just wanted a plain cup of coffee. Something simple.
Main Street, the coffee house, wasn't far off, just a short walk, and my feet had already decided that that was where we were going.
So, I did.
And in a matter of minutes, I was at a table with a cup of coffee in my right hand and my computer in my lap. If I ever had a happy place, this was it.
About an hour went by before a woman walked in the other end of the shop. She was a slight woman, with thick black hair that was braided down her back, but the first thing I noticed about her was her sweater, a large cream colored sweater that stuck out from most people in the room. Her eyes scanned the room for a seat. Reluctantly, I moved my things.
"This seat is open," I told her.
The woman looked at me, smiled, and took the seat across from me.
"Thanks," she said, "This place is pretty crowded."
I nodded, desiring to enjoy my coffee in peace. I'd done my good deed for the day.
I flipped through the next picture on my laptop, but found the woman still staring at me.
"Bibbith," she hummed, eyeing the front of my laptop. The letters were scrawled across the front in black sharpe. "What's that?"
"What in God's name for?"
"Elizabeth…" I said, looking back at my computer.
Yet, this woman was relentless. T
I offered her a smile, then turned back to my work. I offered my seat, not my time.
"What are you looking at?"
"Just some shots."
"Oh." The woman's demeanor shifted slightly. She leaned in.
"Not into that sort of thing? It's okay. Most people aren't."
The woman shook her head, "It's not that." I'm just surprised you're so open about it."
"I'm not ashamed of my work, you know. The only downside to my job is that I don't make much money. The rest I really do like. And I am good at it, not to brag. But..I am."
She smiled at that, "If you see it that way. Would you like to share what you have? It's rare to find that. I mean, someone like us who talks about it."
"I mean if you want to. I don't have them all downloaded yet. I just got back from my last assignment a few hours ago."
She leaned forward."The ones you're looking at. Where are they from?"
"How long were you there?"
"Just over a month."
The woman hummed, and took a sip of her espresso. "I understand. They are few and far between. Unless you just get lucky."
"Hopefully?" I shut my computer. The audacity of this woman. I was a professional. I got paid for this. "You know it is all about lining up the shot. And you just...wait for the right moment."
"I know," the woman nodded, "I do. And you have to wait for the wind. And the sunset can be good, but if you get your timing off, that can be pretty hard to manage."
A smile quirked at the end of my mouth. "You...know about this kind of stuff?"
"Yes. It's my job."
"Well, tell me some of the ways you get your best shots."
The woman pursed her lips and paused, "You just have to be aware of your surroundings, you know. You have to do your research. A lot of things can throw a shot off."
"Well, your position is crucial, especially if you are too far away, or worse too close."
"I always try to set up a good time based on the client's schedule, so that usually isn't an issue for me. Well, I take that back. I did have some issues with that in Africa. The desert sand made things a little more...difficult."
The woman laughed, "Tell me about it. I once had to lay there in a brush pile for three days. I could move a little, but there was constant traffic, so if I moved too much, I would be seen."
I shifted, taking another sip of my coffee. Okay, she had me now. My interest peaked.
"That's a lot of dedication for one shot."
"If that's what you call it."
"Wow. That's - that's really awesome. I would love to see it," I leaned forward, "It is always an honor to share work with another person who appreciates this line of work."
She pulled out a picture from her purse, a folded four by seven photograph, and slid it across the table to me.
"Why is it folded like that? You know you'll never get those creases out -" I paused as I looked at the face that glared back at me. Two piercing eyes. Jet black hair. A large semi-automatic weapon. "Wait. Who do you take pictures for?"
"Pictures?" the woman frowned, "I don't take pictures." She said it as though it were an insult. And it was.
"But you said you had some shots."
The woman nodded slowly, methodically, "Yes, fourteen to be exact."
The woman before me finished her espresso and shook her head as though she knew something I did not. Finally, she drew in a breath and met my gaze.
"No, Bibbith. People."